Mercenaries IN KOSOVO: The U.S. Connection to the KLA
Madsen, Wayne, The Progressive
The U.S. connection to the KLA
Meeting in the fourth floor conference room of a quaint red brick office building in a quiet section of Alexandria, Virginia, a group of retired generals discussed military support for a U.S. ally. The topic of the day: how to train and equip a shadowy guerrilla group accused by the State Department of being a terrorist organization.
The military men knew that the Drug Enforcement Administration suspected the guerrillas of smuggling high-grade Afghan heroin into North America and Western Europe. Police agencies across Europe had been alerted to the links among the rebels and the Sicilian, Calabrian, Neapolitan, and Russian mafias.
Was this the setting for a Tom Clancy novel? Or was it a flashback to one of the numerous secret meetings attended by the likes of Richard Secord and Oliver North during the Iran-contra scandal of the 1980s?
Actually, it was neither. It was a real life and present-day strategy session at MPRI (formerly known as Military Professional Resources, Inc.). Its client: the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
MPRI is one of a handful of Pentagon contractors known as private military companies providing support to the KLA, according to retired Army Colonel David Hackworth, in an interview with Fox News's Catherine Crier. According to Hackworth, MPRI has used former U.S. military personnel to train KLA forces at secret bases inside Albania.
According to its web site, MPRI was founded as a Delaware-based corporation in 1987 by eight retired military officers. Its present board of directors is a virtual Who's Who of retired Pentagon brass. Members include one retired admiral, two retired major generals, and ten retired generals. One of those is former U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Carl E. Vuono. MPRI employs more than 400 personnel and, more importantly, has access to the resumes of thousands of former U.S. military specialists, from Green Berets and helicopter pilots to supply clerks and cooks. The firm--which, according to Jane's Intelligence Review, is involved in internal conflicts in Angola and the Congo, as well as the Balkans--did more than $48 million in business in 1997. MPRI's motto is: "Our integrity is our most treasured asset."
Some of the military leadership of the KLA includes veterans of MPRI-planned Operations Storm and Strike, 1995 Croatian military offensives that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from eastern Croatia. One former CIA official confided that he is not surprised that MPRI is now involved with the KLA. "It fits the pattern," he said.
The military commander of the KLA, Agim Ceku, is a former brigadier general in the Croatian army, and, according to the London Independent's Robert Fisk, an "ethnic cleanser" in his own right. Along with MPRI military advisers, Ceku helped plan the Croatian offensive that drove some 350,000 Croatian Serbs from Krajina province. Croatian forces also destroyed more than 10,000 Croatian Serb homes.
Another KLA leader is Xhavit Haliti, who is not even a Kosovar. He is a former officer of the dreaded Albanian secret police, the Sigurimi, an entity that has chalked up innumerable human rights violations inside Albania.
KLA leaders have been accused of assassinating moderate Kosovo Albanians, including some of those who agreed to the Rambouillet peace accords. In fact, according to Albanian State Television, the KLA had sentenced to death in absentia Ibrahim Rugova, the democratically elected president of the Republic of Kosovo. (The KLA boycotted the election he won in 1998.) Apparently, Rugova, whose government-in-exile signed the Rambouillet accord, was too moderate for the KLA.
Until last year, the KLA was regarded as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported last May that "officers of the Kosovo Liberation Army and their backers, according to law enforcement authorities in Western Europe and the United States, are a major force in international organized crime, moving staggering amounts of narcotics through an underworld network that reaches into the heart of Europe. …